Anthem Northwest Youth Conference -A recipe for disaster or an invitation to God?

Youth worshipping freely, hands in air, jumping, celebrating Jesus.
Anthem Northwest 2015 Youth Conference

Ingredients:

200 youth gathered from 15 northwest Vineyard churches

55 willing youth leaders

Bushels of prayer, stirred continuously

Directions:

Pack youth in a 109 year old church located in the most feared section of Yakima

Sprinkle the leaders, evenly amongst the youth

Bake at 100 to 109 degrees, during a record breaking heat wave. Do NOT add air conditioning and use fans in moderation.

Hydrate with 170+ gallons of liquid – water, Gatorade, assorted sodas.

Simmer with constant prayer.

            A recipe for a hot mess… right?

            “Are you having fun?” I ask, a flushed faced Seattle youth, acclimated to dewy, mist inspired weather.

“Oh yes! It’s awesome!” they answer, racing off to join the others downstairs.

As it turns out, “awesome” is the agreed upon adjective for Anthem Northwest.

But why?

It wasn’t the food…   

“It was nasty!”

Food received a unanimous thumbs down for content and quantity.

BUT…

“Snacks saved lives!”

It surely was NOT the 5-star accommodations…

Third floor 8 x 10 rooms, sleeping bags and assorted bedding jigsawed across the floors, youth knitted together, a human Afghan, fans whirring, blowing hot air, swirling the scent of sweat and fruity hair gel products.

So, what then? What kept 200 sweltering teenagers content for three days and nights?

“God was in the house!”

Amazing how God’s presence can turn a potential whine-fest into a powerful encounter. As the heat collected in the stuffy rooms at night, the youth partied downstairs in the basement. Upon entering the dark room, lights flashing, guitars blaring, you see jumping bodies with arms waving… you might think you’ve found a mosh pit. But then, you see, you feel, you know…

Jesus is the life of this party!

Teenage boys having fun in church.
Evan Garfein and Kody Siebol

“As far as the worship and time spent together, it was the most genuine conference yet.”

 

 

 

 

 

Two worship teams rocked, Holy Spirit style, morning and night. Morning worship, led by an impressive 14 year old, may have replaced the flashing lights and volume with an acoustic guitar and Djembe, but it was just as powerful.

Two happy teenage girls seated in church.
Taylor Siebol and Kashara Hyder

“Worship was so loud, people from the neighborhood were texting asking what’s going on at the church.”

 

 

Keeping to the theme of the conference title –  key speakers inspired the youth to know who God created and called them to be.  

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

And that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1

            Free time, intimate gatherings and workshops followed up with one on one prayer and discussion, preparing many young hearts to receive healing from feelings of rejection, unworthiness, and hopelessness, wiping away the lies of the enemy, granting freedom to answer God’s call.

            Many youth enthusiastically named the outreaches as the most powerful part of the conference. The outreach (service) portion took place on the first day during the suns peak performance, beginning around noon. Three groups CHOSE to do yard work for local homes. Others visited a retirement center, interacting with residents, playing games and visiting.

Teen girl seated in church at Christian youth conference.
Bethany Heine

“I visited with a German immigrant for an hour and a half and played piano… Moonlight Sonata reminded her of songs from her past.”

    

 

Still other groups pounded the sizzling pavement, picking up trash and seeking anyone in need of a kind word or prayer, trekking through sections of town best left uncharted. One group came upon a coffee shack, named Dream Girls Espresso. As they approached, open to serve in whatever way God led them, they noticed the pictures on the building were short a few articles of clothing.

OOPS!

Collectively, these groups picked up litter and prayed for individuals and businesses, leaving Yakima’s streets blessed and enlightened. Imagine yourself having a bad day, when one of these bright, holy spirit filled youths approaches, asking if there’s something they can do for you, or sharing a word from God, or blessing your business. What day wouldn’t be improved by that?

I’m convinced the success of this conference is a miracle. Picture any group of teens you know… now plop them into the setting described above, stifling hot, cramped quarters, small portions of teen dubbed “nasty” food and void of expected creature comforts like beds. Not a pretty picture?

Then why is it that these youth describe this experience with words like energetic, best ever, and awesome?

            “It was great reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.”

“You know those old time tent revivals? It was like that… watching God at work.”

In conclusion, I admit astonishment. First, who does this?

Who says, “Hmmm, let’s host Anthem Northwest, here in Yakima. We’ve never done it before, but if God wants it, it’ll happen.”

Who does that?

Young couple eating ice cream.
Aaron and Melissa Lee decompressing with a treat, celebrating the success of Anthem NW.

Surely not a young couple with two pre-schoolers… currently very (extra very) pregnant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if they wanted to host their first youth conference, wouldn’t they do a small test drive first, or at least choose the winter camp over Anthem, a conference reputed for huge turnouts?

Truth is, I’ve watched this couple pull off “dumb ideas” before. How?  Simply because they’re not stupid, they’re God equipped, with a brilliant faith. Motives pure and sweet, wanting only to bless the Vineyard youth, they trusted God to take care of the impossible ever-mounting details, rolling up sleeves to do the tasks He put before them. They trusted there would be help… and there was. They trusted the youth would be safe… and they were. They knew God would show up… and He did.    

What I want to take away from witnessing this experience is this:

When God is included on the invitation list, you can expect a miraculous party.

 

14 thoughts on “Anthem Northwest Youth Conference -A recipe for disaster or an invitation to God?”

  1. i was at best, sceptical, when this event was being planned. with the odds against them, the Lee’s pulled it off. God showed up and made it an awesome event for all involved. thanks GOD

  2. As one of the Youth kids who attended this conference, I can say that this blog perfectly represents the event. What could have been worse than the one youth camp where everyone got sick, it turned out to be quite successful. Also, out of all the pictures of me, you chose that one?

  3. what an absolutely wonderful experience for all those involved. Surely hearts and lives have been changed for eternity and there will be a ripple affect touching all in the flow. Thanks for a great description of a God filled weekend!

  4. It’s always so encouraging to contrast what happens in the lives of teens in conferences like this with what we see on the news reports. God is raising up a generation of those who will live for Him! thanks!

    1. Karen
      You are so right. I receive healing in the form of hope whenever I am around our youth. When we read the papers or watch TV, it can be quite disheartening.

  5. Thanks Deb for sharing your wonderful message of teens living in faith united together to do God’s will. I resonated with reading about the way Christ is working in these teens lives. So many teens are lost living aimlessly without God’s direction. I loved this
    “When God is included on the invitation list, you can expect a miraculous party.” Thanks for carrying Christ’s Good News!

  6. Tears came to my eyes as i read thyru this post. It what seemingly has become a world of nastiness and disbelief it warms my heart to know there are lil soldiers of God out there working away at the filth and nastiness. God is our shield, He doesn’t guarantee bad things will not happen or happen to us, but he does gives us the peace of knowing we will not go thru it alone and w/o His love. You cannot take my spirit and souls from me anymore….

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